- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - A Georgia school district plans to reconsider its requirements for walking in graduation ceremonies after a special education student learned he won’t be able to participate this year.

Christopher Alderidge was told this month that he won’t be able to walk with his classmates at Allatoona High School’s graduation ceremony on Friday because he failed a state science exam that is required to earn a traditional diploma. His mom, Brenda Alderidge, said Christopher could accept a special education diploma, which doesn’t require passing state tests, instead of a traditional one and walk with his classmates.

A special education diploma doesn’t qualify students for college, and Alderidge wants to attend a technical college to become certified as a personal trainer.

Alderidge, 19, said he plans to retake the test this summer so he can receive a diploma. In the meantime, he wants to walk across the stage and celebrate with classmates, teachers and family who have supported him through some difficult years.

Cobb County School District officials said it’s too late to make changes before Friday’s ceremony but they will review the ceremony participation policies for future years. The district’s policy requires students to complete all graduation requirements, which include passing state assessments and passing specific classes, to graduate and participate in ceremonies.

For special education students, teachers and parents discuss graduation requirements that are included in a student’s Individualized Education Program. Alderidge’s program includes passing the state graduation tests.

When Alderidge was 2, his mom noticed he struggled to pronounce some words. Doctors thought it was a problem with his hearing but couldn’t find a cause. When he was in second grade, a case manager suggested that a pediatric neurologist examine Alderidge.

Doctors discovered a cyst and damage to his brain, caused by a massive stroke and a second, smaller stroke early in Alderidge’s life. Regular tutoring, speech therapy and summer school helped him get through school.

“I had to go one step at a time and go slow,” Alderidge said. “I still got to where I needed, still got to where everybody else was, just at a slower pace.”

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